Henri Duparc

Henri Duparc

Duparc, Henri, 1848-1933, French composer. Duparc studied piano with César Franck and became one of his first composition pupils. A nervous disorder caused him to cease composing in 1885. He spent the rest of his life in Switzerland. Extremely self-critical, Duparc destroyed many of his works, so that only a handful remain. His fame rests entirely on the 14 beautiful songs he wrote between 1868 and 1884.

See S. Northcote, The Songs of Henri Duparc (1949).

Henri Duparc (Eugène Marie Henri Fouques Duparc) (January 21, 1848 – February 12, 1933) was a French composer of the late Romantic period.


Duparc was born in Paris. He studied piano with César Franck at the Jesuit College in the Vaugirard district and became one of his first composition pupils. Following military service in the Franco-Prussian War, he married Ellen MacSwinney, from Scotland, on November 9, 1871. In the same year, he joined with Saint-Saëns and Romain Bussine to found the Société Nationale de Musique Moderne.

Duparc is best known for his seventeen songs with texts by poets such as Baudelaire, Gautier, Leconte de Lisle, and Goethe. These pieces are considered by many to be among the greatest compositions by any composer in this form.

A mental illness, called "neurasthenia", caused him to abruptly cease composing at age 37, in 1885. He devoted himself to his family and his other passions, drawing and painting. However, he began losing his vision after the turn-of the-century, which eventually led to complete blindness. He destroyed most of his music, leaving fewer than 40 works to posterity. In a poignant letter about the destruction of his incomplete opera written on January 19, 1922 to the composer Jean Cras, his close friend, Duparc states:

Après avoir vécu 25 ans dans un splendide rêve, toute idée de représentation m'était – je vous le répète – devenue odieuse. L'autre motif de cette destruction, que je ne regrette pas, c'est la complète transformation morale que Dieu a opéré en moi il y a 20 ans et qui en une seule minute a abolie toute ma vie passée. Dès lors, la Roussalka n'ayant aucun rapport avec ma vie nouvelle ne devait plus exister.
(Having lived 25 years in a splendid dream, the whole idea of [musical] representation has become – I repeat to you – repugnant. The other reason for this destruction, which I do not regret, was the complete moral transformation that God imposed on me 20 years ago and who, in a single minute, obliterated all of my past life. Therefore, [my opera] Roussalka, not having any connection with my new life, should no longer exist.)

He spent most of his remaining life in La Tour-de-Peilz, near Vevey, Switzerland and died in Mont-de-Marsan, in southwest France, at age 85.

Duparc is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. A square in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, near the rue de Levis, is named in his honor.


Catalogue of works by Henri Duparc
Year Composition Notes Type of Work
1863-65 Six Rêveries, pour piano Printed, but unpublished. Private collection of Mme. d'Armagnac, daughter of Duparc. Piano solo
1867 Sonate pour violoncelle et piano Premier in 1948. Private collection of Mme. d'Armagnac, daughter of Duparc. Cello & piano
1867-69 Feuilles volantes, pour piano Piano solo
1868 Chanson triste Published as: Op. 2, no. 4. Text by Jean Lahor. Voice & piano (Orchestrated, 1912)
1868 Lamento Text by Théophile Gautier. Voice & piano
1869 Le Galop Published as: Op. 2, no. 5. Text by Sully Prudhomme. (Released in 1948). Voice & piano
1869 Romance de Mignon Published as: Op. 2, no. 3. Text by Victor Wilder, based on « Kennst du das Land » by Goethe). Voice & piano
1869 Sérénade florentine Published as: Op. 2, no. 2. Text by Jean Lahor. Voice & piano
1869 Soupir Published as: Op. 2, no. 1. Text by Sully Prudhomme. Revised 1902. Voice & piano
1869 Cinq mélodies, op. 2 Voice & piano
1869 Beaulieu, pour piano Private collection of Mme. d'Armagnac, daughter of Duparc. Piano solo
1869-70 Au Pays où se fait la guerre Text by Théophile Gautier. (Original title: Absence). Definitive version, 1911-13. Voice & piano (Orchestrated, 1876)
1870 L'Invitation au voyage Text by Charles Baudelaire. Released in 1872. Voice & piano (Orchestrated, 1892-95)
1871 La Fuite, duo pour soprano et ténor avec piano Published as: Op. 2, no. 6. Duet for voice & piano
1871 La vague et la cloche Text by François Coppée. Released in 1873. Voice & piano (Orchestrated)
1872 Suite d'orchestre (Lost). Orchestral suite
1872-82 Phidylé Text by Leconte de Lisle. Released in 1889 Voice & piano (Orchestrated, 1891-92)
1873 Laendler, suite de valses pour orchestre (Destroyed). Orchestral suite
1873 Laendler (version for two pianos) Two pianos
1874 Poème nocturne :
I. Aux étoiles - II. Lutins et follets - III. Duo: L’aurore
Part lost, only: I. Aux étoiles is extant.
Premiered in Paris on April 11, 1874 at the Société Nationale de Musique Moderne.
Orchestral work
1874 Elégie Text by Ellen MacSwinny(?) (wife of Duparc) after Thomas Moore. Voice & piano
1874 Extase Text by Jean Lahor. Released 1882. Revised 1884. Voice & piano
1875 Lénore Based on a poem by Burger. Symphonic poem
1875 Lénore (version for two pianos, four hands) Two pianos
1876-84 La vie anterieure Text by Charles Baudelaire. Voice & piano (Orchestrated, 1911-12)
1877 Suite pour le piano (Lost). Piano solo
1879 Le manoir de Rosemonde Text by Robert de Bonniéres Voice & piano (Orchestrated, 1912)
1879-95 Roussalka, opéra en trois actes Unfinished. Based on Русалки (Rusalka), a dramatic poem by Alexander Pushkin. (Destroyed). Opera in 3 acts
1880 Sérénade Text by Gabriel Marc. Released 1882. Voice & piano
1882 Benedicat vobis Dominus Motet for three mixed voices and organ (or piano). Choral music
1883 Testament Text by Paul Armand Silvestre. Released in 1898. Voice & piano (Orchestrated, 1900-02)
1884 La vie antérieure Text by Charles Baudelaire. Voice & piano (Orchestrated, 1911-13)
1886 Recueillement Unfinished. (Destroyed). Voice & piano?
1892 Danse lente Extract from Roussalka. Copied by Ernest Ansermet. Preserved by Éditions Salabert. Orchestral work
1903 Transcription of two works for organ by J.S. Bach:
Prélude and fugue in E minor ("Cathedral"), BWV 513
Prélude and fugue in A minor ("The Great"), BWV 543
Two pianos
1908 Transcription of six organ works by César Franck Two pianos
1910 Aux étoiles, pour piano Also: version for piano four hands, & version for organ. Revised 1911. Piano solo
1911 Aux étoiles Entr'acte for an unpublished drama. Orchestral work
(n.d.) Transcription of a work for organ by J.S. Bach:
Chorale Prélude and Fugue: In dir ist Freude, BWV 615
Private collection of Ernest Ansermet Two pianos


Writings by Henri Duparc (in French):

  • César Franck pendant le Siège de Paris, in « Revue musicale », Paris, December 1922.
  • Souvenirs de la Société Nationale, in « Revue de la Société internationale de Musique », Paris, December 1912.

Letters (in French):

  • Lettre à Chausson, in « Revue musicale », December 1925.
  • Duparc Henri : Une Amitié mystique, d'après ses lettres à Francis Jammes. (Preface and comments by G. Ferchault). Mercure de France, Paris, 1944.
  • Gérard, Y. (Ed.). Lettres de Henri Duparc à Ernest Chausson, in « Revue de Musicologie » (N° 38) 1956, p. 125.
  • Sérieyx, M.-L. (Ed.). Vincent d’Indy, Henri Duparc, Albert Roussel : lettres à Auguste Sérieyx. Lausanne, 1961.

Monographs on Duparc (in French):

  • Northcote, S. The Songs of Henri Duparc. London: D. Dobson, 1949. 124 pp.
  • Von der Elst, N. Henri Duparc : l’homme et son oeuvre. (Thesis). Paris: Université de Paris, 1972, & Utrecht, 1972.
  • Fabre, M. L'image de Henri Duparc dans sa correspondance avec Jean Cras. 1973.

Other articles and writings about Duparc (in French):

  • Fellot, H. Lieder français : Henri Duparc, in « Revue Musicale de Lyon ». Lyon, March 30, 1904.
  • Chantavoine, J. Henri Duparc, in « La Revue Hebdomadaire », Paris, May 5, 1906.
  • Aubry, G.-J. Henri Duparc, in « La vie musicale de Lausanne », Lausanne, February 1, 1908.
  • Jammes, Francis. L'Amour, les Muses et la Chasse, in « Mercure de France », Paris, 1922, p. 172 et al.
  • Fauré, Gabriel. Opinions musicales. Paris: Rieder, 1930.
  • Imbert, M. Henri Duparc, in « La Petite Maîtrise », Schola Cantorum de París, March 1933.
  • Ansermet, Ernest. Un émouvant témoignage sur la destinée d'Henri Duparc, in « Revue Musicale », Paris, April 1933.
  • Bréville, P. Henri Fouques Duparc 1848-1933, in « La Musique Française », Paris, May 1933.
  • Merle, F. Psychologie et Pathologie d'un artiste: Henri Duparc. Bordeaux: Imprimerie de l'Université (Bordeaux), 1933.
  • Oulmont, C. Henri Duparc, ou de L'Invitation au Voyage à la Vie éternelle. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer & Cie, 1935.
  • Oulmont, C. Un Duparc inconnu, in « Revue musicale », Paris, July-August 1935.
  • Stricker, R. Henri Duparc et ses mélodies. (Thesis). Paris: Conservatoire national de musique, 1961.
  • Rigault, J.-L. Les mélodies de Duparc, Autour de la mélodie française. Rouen, 1987, p. 71-86.
  • Stricker, R. Les mélodies de Duparc. Arles, 1996.

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